Have you ever hit a wall in military life? It might have been something small, something stupid or maybe it was something huge that made you throw up your hands and wish that you weren’t a military spouse.
That life would just be “normal.”
There’s sometimes a saturation point to military life. There’s a point where we reach our limit and say, “Enough.”
When we rage against whatever service branch keeps pulling the rug out from under us. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, most — if not all — of us have felt that frustration at some point. Even if we vehemently don’t want to admit it.
Maybe it’s the once-in-a-lifetime vacation that had to be canceled thanks to the military’s sudden change in plans. Or the deployment that stretched longer than you expected.
Maybe it’s the feeling of your ambition and part of yourself dying as you PCS to yet another state where you have to get recertified in your field.
Or when you try to comfort your crying child who doesn’t understand why they have to move so much. Or just wanting to go home for Christmas without booking a flight across 12 time zones.
That’s why I did a big ol’ fist pump at my computer when I read Keating’s piece, I Don’t Want to Be a Military Spouse.
She explained how she was becoming disillusioned with military life and was ready for her husband to come home so they could build on their marriage and live their life free from the restrictions of the military.
The more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t want to be a military spouse. I hate when people go on about how “I knew what I was getting myself into” because no. I didn’t. I had no clue what I was getting no myself into when I married Zack. I just knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I want to be his wife, but I don’t want to be a military spouse.
I read every word and then I held my breath because, oh God, oh God, the comments.
I didn’t want to see a young, vulnerable military spouse who had just written a beautiful, emotional and honest piece get squashed by the hammer that can be the rabid, critical comment section.
I didn’t want to see the same tired refrain that is spooned out across social media: “Suck it up,” “He has it worse,” “Put on your big girl panties….”
Instead, comment after comment was kind and in solidarity. You know the movie “Spartacus” where, instead of allowing Spartacus to be punished alone, every slave stands up and says that they, too, are Spartacus?
It was kind of like that, but in the comments section and without the sweaty, dirty dudes or sweeping orchestral score in the background.
Each comment validated Keating’s feelings. Each one told her to hang in there, that she could do it, that things would get better:
“We all felt this way at one point or another.”
“While I do like being a military spouse right now, I so relate to what you are going through right now. Military life is not easy, and you know I’m the first one to raise my hand on that topic. Hang in there sister, you are among friends.”
“We debate constantly whether we want to stay in or get out. There’s so many pros and cons to both, and honestly we’ve just decided that we just need to pick and then be happy about it, period. It’s just tough.”
These supportive comments gave me hope for the military spouse community.
I don’t need to tell you about the stereotypes of military spouses and significant others that exist in our community. We’ve probably all had a run-in at one point or another with someone who, sadly, embodied those stereotypes.
But here we were, offering a digital shoulder squeeze or pat on the back. Here we were acknowledging the difficulties and obstacles that come with loving someone who is in the military. Here we were offering our own stories to someone else who was having such a tough time.
It made me sad, too. Sad because so many of those comments reflected real struggles that I had dealt with alone.
Sad because the obstacles that we face as military spouses are real and often they are overlooked.
So often we overlook them ourselves because we see them as less worthy, constantly in the shadows of what our partners are doing, enduring or accomplishing. And sad, too, because so many military spouses and families suffer quietly, too afraid, embarrassed, or worried to reach out for help.
And that’s exactly why the comments on Keating’s post were so encouraging.
When it comes down to it, those comments are just black pixels on white pixels. They exist nowhere else but the internet. The hand up, the hug, the pat on the back — even digitally, they’re so important to welcoming and engaging with other spouses.
We have the collective power to change the dialogue and to continue to foster a community that is welcoming and kind. We have the power to do it just by saying, “Yeah, me too, and here’s how I dealt,” or “I never experienced that, but it sounds so hard. How can I help?”
I’ve been disillusioned with military life at points through this journey. Keating has too. Maybe you’ve felt that way as well.
We’re here for each other. And we’re here for you too.